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Backup catcher role up for grabs between Bako, Hill
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/27/2009 12:00 AM

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The Cubs have a pretty good battle going to see who will back up Geovany Soto behind the plate.

Koyie Hill saw limited action with the Cubs the past two seasons. Paul Bako is a veteran who played full seasons with the Cubs in 2003 and 2004. Hill, 30, has 96 games of big-league experience while the 36-year-old Bako has played in 745 games.

Manager Lou Piniella addressed the issue Thursday.

"There are a couple things," Piniella said. "First of all, I like backup catchers that can win baseball games. I've always said that. At the same time, how do you choose the backup catcher? What are the requisites? Is it just play once or twice a week, or do you pick it with the idea of, 'Boy, your No. 1 guy gets hurt, and this guy is going to play two or three weeks; who do you keep?'

"I think you lean toward the second (thought process) as opposed to the first."

Piniella sang the praises of both and said he hopes whichever one doesn't get the job lands in the big leagues. Hill is out of minor-league options, and Bako signed a major-league free-agent deal with the Cubs.

"I can say that Hill, early in camp, had an advantage because he knew our pitching staff, and he was hitting so well, and he hasn't done anything to hurt himself," Piniella said. "At the same time, Bako in the past week or so has really caught well and hit well. I think it's up for grabs over the next week or 10 days."

Decision coming: Lou Piniella said he's close to announcing his decision on the closer's job. It's between Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg.

"I'm leaning (toward one), but we'll have that decision for your on Sunday," he said. "That will give me time to talk to both pitchers."

No. 1 pick gone: The Cubs have released outfielder Ryan Harvey, their top pick in the 2003 draft. Harvey batted .247 with 83 homers in six minor-league seasons.

"There comes a time," said farm director Oneri Fleita. "Other guys passed him by."

The Cubs also are converting 2006 pick Josh Lansford from an infielder to a pitcher. Lansford is the son of former big-league third baseman Carney Lansford.

"He's got a really good arm, and that's a positive," Fleita said.